They seemed to be staring at the dark, but their eyes were watching God. ~ Zora Neale Hurston
Day 12: Matthew 5:8
Happy are the pure in heart; they will see God!
See God? Wow, how awesome is that! Who wouldn’t want to see God?
Well, back when I was in college in the early 1970s we would joke about people eating too much acid (LSD) and seeing God. Most of the people I knew at that time thought seeing God was a sign of either mental illness or too many drugs or both. Back then I definitely didn’t want to see God.
Later as I became more familiar with the Bible I learned that “God sightings” are not necessarily the result of mental health issues.
The first people to see God were Adam and Eve, but they damaged their relationship with God and “lost sight of him” by eating an apple. After this fiasco in the Garden of Eden, the next person to see God was Moses. He spent a lot of time talking to God. When he asked God to show himself, God said that no one could look at him directly and live to tell about it. So God made a deal with Moses and let him see his shadow as he passed by. Here are some other subsequent God sightings:
- David describes an encounter with God in Psalm 18, although this seems to be more metaphorical than physical.
- The prophet Elijah had a conversation with God because he was upset that everyone was trying to kill him. Again, Elijah didn’t actually see God – but after a lot of wind, an earthquake, and a fire he heard God’s “still, small voice”.
- The prophets Isaiah and Ezekiel saw God when they were called into a prophetic ministry. Isaiah saw God in the temple, and Ezekiel saw him outdoors when “the sky opened up.”
- Daniel had a prophetic dream where he saw God seated on a throne and presiding over a heavenly courtroom.
All of these people saw God, so they must have had perfectly pure hearts, right? They are all certainly Biblical heroes, but were they pure of heart? Adam and Eve messed up, so their hearts must not have been pure even from the beginning. Moses certainly knocked himself out trying to do the right thing, but on the other hand he killed an Egyptian guard. He was also banned from entering the Promised Land because he lost his temper. David was responsible for orchestrating Uriah’s death. Elijah spent a lot of time worrying instead of trusting God for his safety. Isaiah made a lot of predictions but only some of them came true. Daniel was very courageous in many ways, but was he somewhat of a traitor to the Jews for being so chummy with their oppressors’ kings? All of the heroes in the Old Testament had their virtues and shortcomings, just like the rest of us. So if you want to see God, you apparently do not have to be perfectly pure of heart.
In John 14:9 Jesus declares that he is the exact representation of God, so everyone who saw Jesus saw God. A lot of the people who saw Jesus were sinners, so this is further evidence that you must not have to be all that pure. But then again not everyone who saw Jesus saw God. Most of them, like the Pharisees and religious leaders, probably just saw a man – an awesome prophet, but just a man. It seems that only a few of the many who looked upon him saw him as God. If the people in power had seen him as God they would have undoubtedly treated him more respectfully.
Maybe purity of heart refers to sincerity, desire, and single-minded focus. Maybe to see God you simply need to desire it, and then look without any preconceptions. In the time of Jesus some of the ordinary people recognized that he was the Messiah, but the religious authorities didn’t see that he was God in human form. Maybe their hearts were closed. Maybe their vision was clouded by their expectations and preconceptions about what the Messiah should look like.
I saw a cloud once in a religious gathering and I believe it was God’s glory. It happened when we were at a giant Benny Hinn revival at the United Center. It was actually quite a story. For more than a year my foot had been bothering me. There was a good sized hard bump on my instep, which I thought might have been the result of a stress fracture or something. It was annoying and made walking kind of difficult but I tried to ignore it.
On the morning of the revival I heard a voice in my head say, “Wear the pink suit.” I didn’t want to do that because my pink suit was very fancy with sparkles and it required wearing dress shoes. I didn’t want to wear uncomfortable shoes, but I decided to go along with it and wear the suit.
When we got to the United Center we had bad seats and it was hard to see. All of a sudden a woman who was serving as an usher called us to move up front. I think it was because they televised these gatherings and they liked the looks of that suit I was called to wear. Those Benny Hinn people were snappy dressers.
At one point they said that people could go up on the stage and Benny would pray for them. Of course thousands of people wanted prayer and they all rushed for the front. Many of them were turned away, but because we were seated right in the front we were able to receive prayer. We didn’t go forward for any particular reason. It was just part of the experience and we always figure that prayer never hurts.
When it was my turn to receive prayer something strange happened. A giant cloud seemed to engulf the whole stage, and I saw Benny Hinn’s funny-looking head coming at me through that cloud. He grabbed my head with both hands (consistent with his style of prayer) and I fell over laughing. It was hysterical. He then prayed for me one more time and I left the platform and went back to my seat. While I was sitting there, I realized my foot didn’t hurt anymore. I reached down and felt it and the bump was gone. I showed it to John and we were both amazed. We could both feel that the bump was gone, and so was the pain.
My foot got healed in that cloud. I don’t know why or how such an unexpected thing happened. I would have preferred to have been healed of my migranes, but it was awesome nevertheless. Of course seeing God’s glory is not the same as seeing God, even if you get healed. I have never seen God, but I would be thrilled to have the experience. At this stage of my life I wouldn’t be afraid I was losing my mind. I would look at it as a sign of spiritual health as opposed to mental illness. But I think seeing God is kind of like seeing a UFO or Bigfoot. You can’t expect other people to believe you. It’s all somewhat socially unacceptable.
I will never forget that day. You will never convince me that divine healing isn’t possible. As for that pink suit, I sent my mom off to heaven in it. She didn’t have many nice clothes and it fit her perfectly. I thought she would like to be buried in a pretty, sparkly suit that had spent a little time in the cloud of God’s presence.
I just saw a post on Facebook that said, “Those who joyfully leave everything in God’s hand will eventually see God’s hand in everything.” Maybe that’s the way it works. Maybe God shows himself all the time and we just miss it. I only know that I would like to see God and it makes me happy that Jesus says that it’s within the realm of possibility.
What does this scripture say to you?